Dr Adam Mosley

About Me

I read Natural Sciences at Cambridge University as an undergraduate, studying physics, chemistry, biochemistry and pharmacology, before deciding that I preferred libraries and museums to laboratories. After studying for an MPhil in History and Philosophy of Science, I embarked on a PhD in the history of early modern astronomy. I was Jane Eliza Proctor Fellow at Princeton University, 1999-2000, and a Junior Research Fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge, 2000-2004, with an affiliation to the Cambridge University Department of History and Philosophy of Science. I have retained that affiliation since arriving in Swansea in January 2004.

I served on the Council of the British Society for the History of Science between 2006 and 2009, and was Reviews Editor for British Journal for the History of Science from mid-2010 until mid-2015.

I was a Visiting Fellow at CRASSH (Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities) and Wolfson College, of the University of Cambridge, in Michaelmas Term 2007. During the academic year 2015-2016, I shall be a Dibner Research Fellow in the History of Science & Technology at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California.


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  1. & Christoph Rothmann's Discourse on the Comet of 1585: An Edition and Translation with Accompanying Essays. Leiden: Brill.
  2. & 'Astronomy and Astrology'. In Philip Ford (†), Jan Bloemendal and Charles Fantazzi (Ed.), Brill's Encyclopaedia of the Neo-Latin World. (pp. 667-677). Leiden: Brill.
  3. 'Past Portents Predict: Cometary Historiae and Catalogues in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries'. In Dario Tessicini and Patrick J. Boner (Ed.), Celestial Novelties on the Eve of the Scientific Revolution 1540-1630. (pp. 1-32). Florence: Leo S. Olschki.
  4. 'Reading the Heavens: Observation and Interpretation of Astronomical Phenomena in Learned Letters c. 1600'. In van Miert, Dirk (Ed.), Communicating Observations in Early Modern Letters (1500-1675): Epistolography and Epistemology in the Age of Scientific Revolution. (pp. 115-134). London: The Warburg Institute.
  5. 'Vincenzo Maria Coronelli's Atlante Veneto and the diagrammatic tradition of cosmography'. Journal for the History of Astronomy 42, 27-53.

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  • HI-M01 Historical Methods and Approaches

    This module provides training in advanced historical research. It is designed to introduce students to methods of historical investigation, writing, and presentation, and to important historical resources (including archives, collections of sources, and museums). Attention will be given to the use of IT in historical work work as well as more traditional paper-based methods.

  • HI-M38 New Departures in the Writing of History

    This module provides an introduction to advanced historiography. It is designed to develop students¿ awareness of traditional historiographical concerns alongside their knowledge current trends and new directions in writing and thinking about the past.

  • HI-M39 Research Folder

    This module is designed to help students to identify a dissertation topic appropriate to their interests and expertise, and to tackle the problems of methodology, develop the research techniques, and undertake the project planning which are the necessary preliminaries to researching and writing a 20,000 word dissertation.

  • HI-M53 From Princely Possessions to Public Museums: A History of Collecting and Display

    The public museums, libraries and galleries of the modern era first emerged from the princely and scholarly collections of the early modern period. Students taking this module will look at the various motivations for collecting from the late middle ages onwards, examine the different types of collection that resulted, and consider how those collections that have survived became accessible to the public. Particular emphasis will be placed on the role of display in the culture of collecting. Throughout their history collections have been displayed, but the reasons for doing so, and the size and nature of the audience to whom they have been shown, have varied over time and according to setting. The module will therefore provide an opportunity to consider what lessons and values have been and are being conveyed by collections, from princely Kunstkammern of the sixteenth century to national and local museums of the twenty-first century.

  • HIH118 Early Modern World, 1500-1800

    In 1500, European exploration and colonisation of the rest of the world was only in its infancy. America, two continents North and South, had been unknown to Europeans until just eight years previously. Most of it was still unmapped by Europeans, as were large parts of the rest of the world. By 1800, on the other hand, it was possible to construct a recognisable modern version of a world map. Europeans had explored, colonised, and resettled huge swathes of America in the first instances. They had killed or displaced millions of Native Americans in the process, wiping out whole civilisations, and they had enslaved 12 million or more Africans in that same process, inflicting immense damage on African societies. Europeans were in the early stages of colonising large parts of Africa and Asia too by 1800. And yet, advances in science had transformed human understanding of the universe, of the world, and indeed of ourselves. This was connected through the Renaissance in art, culture, and politics as well as science, to enormous changes in the structure of polities and societies. The early modern era perhaps saw the invention not only of modern empires, but of large, centralised modern states. Also, the Renaissance and then Enlightenment changed the way people and states interacted. Arguably, the early modern period represents the transition period between an era of medieval hierarchy and the origins of modern social and political democracy. Essentially, the aim of the module, through your lectures, seminars, and independent reading and thinking, is to give you a sense of the connections between these places and their histories, highlighting that the increasing inter-connection between them is itself a feature of the early modern period. You¿ll also get a broad sense of how the world as a whole changed between 1500 and 1800.

  • HIH122 Making History

    History is an imprecise art and what historians say and write about the past is not the same as what actually happened in the past. Most people's knowledge about the past doesn't come from professional historians at all but rather from 'public history'. Public history is the collective understandings of the past that exist outside academic discipline of history. It is derived from a diverse range of sources including oral traditions, legends, literature, art, films and television. This module will introduce you to the study and presentation of the past. It will consider how the content, aims and methods of academic and public history compare and contrast and you will engage in your own small research project to investigate this. The module will also teach you about the fundamentals of studying and writing history at university. You will learn about essay writing, group work and critical analysis and employ these skills to understand and assess history today, both as an academic activity and as public knowledge.

  • HIH237 The Practice of History

    The purpose of the module is to encourage you to think more deeply about how historians work and, in particular, about how we as historians can locate and use primary historical sources effectively as a means of interpreting and understanding the past. During the module we will learn about the survival of historical evidence, how it is organised and made accessible to historians to undertake their research, and how to effectively locate and interpret it in your studies. We will consider how the process of doing historical research changes over time, in particular with the impact of recent developments like digitization. At the core of the module will be the work you undertake with others in your seminar group using a range of primary sources which your seminar tutor will introduce to you. As part of the module assessment you will also undertake your own primary source based research project using items from these collections. The module is designed strengthen your analytical skills and to help prepare you for the more extensive uses of primary evidence which you will encounter in final year special subjects and dissertation.

  • HIH240 Europe 1500-1650: Renaissance, Reformation and Religious War

    This course examines the turbulent period in the history of Europe (including Britain), which encompassed the spread of Renaissance artistic and literary values beyond the Italian peninsula, the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, and conflicts such as the French Wars of Religion, the Dutch Revolt, and the Thirty Years¿ War. The module will explore not only the political significance of these events, and their effects on the ruling classes, but also their implications for wider European society and culture. Particular attention will be paid to using the knowledge acquired to understand written and visual sources produced in the period.

  • HIH3231 Science, Magic, and Medicine in Early Modern Europe (i)

    Historians of science and medicine have long used the term the `Scientific Revolution¿ to express the idea that knowledge of the natural world and the human body changed in important ways during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This module forms the first part of a two-part Special Subject examining the transformation of scientific, magical, and medical ideas and practices in this period, and assessing whether the concept of the `Scientific Revolution¿ is helpful in understanding them.

  • HIHD00 Heritage Dissertation (Practice-Based)

    This module affords students the opportunity to complete their MA in Heritage by undertaking a practical heritage project. The project, worth 67% of the marks, may be undertaken independently, or via a placement with a heritage project or organisation. It will be accompanied by a reflective commentary worth 33% of the marks.

  • HIHD01 Heritage Dissertation (Written)

    Students produce a dissertation on a heritage topic, chosen and developed in conjunction with their supervisor in line with the standard College MA requirements.

  • HIHM04 Heritage Work Placement

    This module enables students to gain practical experience of working with a heritage organisation or project in a graduate-level role. Placements may involve the acquisition of skills in museum work, community projects, heritage interpretation and policy (but are not restricted to these areas). Group discussion and individual tutorials will support students in preparing an extended essay reflecting on their work experience in the context of literature on heritage and public history.

  • HINM01 The Historian's Craft

    This module provides a concise and compact training in advanced historical research. It is designed to introduce students to the techniques of historical research and to train them in historical methodology, as well as historical argument, writing, and presentation. We consider how to search archives for primary sources, use evidence, and critique sources. In addition, we investigate the various sorts of sources available to historians and evaluate their usefulness. Finally, the module also considers the history of historical writing and examines different approaches to and theories of history.

  • HINM02 Public History

    Public history is history in the public sphere, whether in museums and galleries, heritage sites and historic houses, radio and television broadcasting, film, popular history books, or public policy within government. In the UK, it is a new and burgeoning area of academic interest. The central challenge and task of public history is making history relevant and accessible to its audience of people outside academia, whilst adhering to an academically credible historical method. This module explores the theory and practice of public history in heritage, broadcasting, and publication. The module considers the principles of visitor interpretation, museology and curatorship, asking questions such as, how is the past used? What is authenticity? What decisions are made in the presentation and interpretation of museums and historic houses? The module also seriously engages with the challenge of how to represent history in television documentaries, radio broadcasts, mainstream cinema, in the making of public policy, and as popular history or historical fiction. Must public history mean `dumbing down¿, or can we satisfy the public¿s curiosity about the past in a way that also satisfies us as historians?

  • HINM03 Applied Public History

    This module builds upon the theoretical grounding acquired in `Public History¿ to evaluate specific case studies of public history, and to develop a project to communicate history to a public audience that draws on best practice in the field.. The module examines the characteristics of `successful¿ public history by prompting participants to review an example of their choice and present their findings to the class. These discussions form a base from which participants will develop a public history project of their own, based on their dissertation topic. Participants will be given scope to develop an innovative project to disseminate their research findings to the public and will be encouraged to take into consideration factors including intended audience, appropriate media and practical constraints of time and budget.

  • HINM04 The Royal Court: Ritual, Culture, and Power in Medieval England

    This module investigates the role of the court in central medieval England in political and cultural life, with a particular focus on the importance of ceremony and symbolical behaviour. It introduces students to the ways in which these subjects have been treated in social anthropology and the insights and difficulties involved in using methods developed here for the study of medieval Europe. Throughout the module, students will be engaging with a range of medieval sources, royal records, chronicles, saints¿ lives and romances. In this way students will develop familiarity with the methodological challenges involved in the study of medieval history.

  • HINM05 Reality and Utopia: Renaissance Political Thought

    This course explores the figures, ideas and texts that make up the political thought of the European Renaissance Period, 1400-1600. Students will examine texts written by thinkers such as Christine de Pizan, Thomas More, Niccolò Machiavelli, Desiderius Erasmus, Jean Bodin, Francis Bacon, Lucrezia Marinella and others. Students will be guided through contextual and textual analysis, developing an understanding of how thinkers in this period drew on classical ideas and embedded their ideas in contemporary debates. In the Renaissance period political ideas were not limited to political texts, and students will be asked to investigate how we can see evidence of political thoughts in art, emblems, drama and poetry of the period. Students will gain an appreciation of the transmission of ideas, how thinkers interacted with their dynamic contexts, and the wide variety of what might be considered `political thought¿.

  • HINM06 Cross-Cultural Encounters in the Early Modern World

    This module explores encounters between Europeans and the wider world during the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century period of discovery, conquest and colonization. An exploration of the mentalities that accompanied early modern European expansion is crucial to understanding the age. We consider multiple cultural and interracial encounters, studying the narratives about and attitudes towards them, and the ways of negotiating cultural difference. We concentrate first on the Spanish encounters with the Mexica and the Maya, the motivations of the conquistadors, native American accounts, the debate over the justice and rights of the native peoples, and the efforts of missionaries. We then explore the English in North America, considering early sixteenth-century texts like Hariot and Ralegh, but also later seventeenth-century accounts of settlement, including European captivity narratives. We turn to examine travel writing about the `Orient¿ and the experiences of emissaries and ambassadors, both to Europe and to Asia. We finish by considering literary representations of Otherness.

  • HINM07 The Later Victorian Age: Society and Culture, 1870 - 1900

    This module examines the nature of a society in transition in the last three decades of the nineteenth century. Economically, politically, and culturally, Britain was being rapidly transformed during these decades, and this module sets out to understand precisely how and why this was occurring. We consider economic changes, including urbanization and the Great Depression, and how these affected social class, before considering shifts in the nature of religious belief, and whether Britain was becoming more secular. Politically, we examine the effects of the 1867 and 1884 Reform Acts, consider the degree to which politics in Britain was become more modernized, and look at the development of new forms of political thought, under the influence of British Idealism and social Darwinism. Finally, we examine the impact of imperialism and the mass market on British culture, and look at some of the literature that was popular in the late Victorian era.

  • HINM08 African Americans and Economic Inequality from Civil War to Civil Rights

    This module examines the evolving ways in which African Americans experienced and responded to the economic dimensions of racial inequality between the 1860s and 1960s. Participants are prompted to engage with recent scholarship challenging traditional views of civil rights as a narrowly-focused battle for equal political citizenship. Primary sources drawn from both `white¿ and `black¿ America are used to examine the shifting mechanisms by which economic restrictions - especially surrounding equitable access to employment - underpinned more familiar social, cultural and political forms of discrimination. Particular attention will be paid to the decisive establishment of `Jim Crow¿ segregation in the late 19th century and the rise and fall of the so-called `New Deal order¿ in the 20th century. This backdrop is used to critically assess diverse campaigns undertaken by black organizers and their allies that drew upon strategies including racial self-help, Progressive-era liberalism, interracial trade unionism, Cold War-era liberalism and black nationalism. Participants will consider how studying these movements affects answers to unresolved questions about the civil rights movement¿s periodization, geographical range and impact.


  • British gardens, c.1550-c.1650. (current)

    Student name:
    Other supervisor: Prof Deborah Youngs
  • Calculating Value: Using and Collecting the Tools of Early Modern Mathematics (current)

    Student name:
    Other supervisor: Prof David Turner
  • Science and Universities Swansea 1920-2020 (current)

    Student name:
    Other supervisor: Dr Christoph Laucht
    Other supervisor: Dr Tomas Irish